Saturday, March 6, 2010

Running a 1e module with 4e rules - and making D&D history?

My players (unbeknownst to them) started exploring the 1e module "The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan" last night in my 4e game.  I have, of course, made a few tweaks to what was originally a tournament module for AD&D.  The biggest change is that they are going through the module backwards.  If you are unfamiliar with the adventure, it starts with the players falling through a hole into a deep level of a hidden shrine underneath a pyramid temple, and they have to find their way up and out before they are killed by the poisonous gas that is filling up the complex.  Therefore, the players work their way up from the lowest levels and finally (if they avoid MANY devious traps) emerge at the top of the pyramid.

In my game, the players are exploring a strange cavern that was recently broken into by gold miners.  The cavern contained a pyramid temple and some four-armed demon apes that killed the miners and wreaked havoc in the surrounding area.  Even worse, a giant spider with sword-edged arms and human hands later emerged from the cavern and systematically hunted down most of the surviving miners.  The party has been employed by the gold mine to investigate.  Last night's session was an eight hour marathon, so I am going to skip hours of interesting gameplay and talk about the experience I had when the players actually got down to poking their heads into the pyramid and the shrine on top of it.

I did a small amount of prep work the night before the game, mostly consisting of making a couple of notes about each encounter area that I planned to use from the module.  The PCs were starting at the end of the module, basically, and working their way backwards, because they started outside the shrine on the pyramid and entered the shrine from above, entering its upper levels first.  I liberally hacked out some areas that I just didn't feel like translated that well, as well as a few areas that made little sense if encountered from the wrong direction.  I also made a note of each creature that might be encountered and spent a few minutes typing names into the 4e Monster Builder to find a rough equivalent for each.  Finally, I inserted my human-handed spider into a secret location (not sure if any of my players read this blog, but they have no idea where the spider is so I shan't spoil the surprise here...).

A few notes - 

The end of the module (and the first thing the players encountered) is the altar and mural on top of the pyramid.  In the module it is a bat altar, in my game I made it a spider altar.  The players carefully examined the place and noted two odd things: the mouth of the spider in the mural was an actual hole that seemed to be lined with real sharp mandibles; there were handles on the bottom front of the altar.  More careful inspection revealed that the entire altar might be able to be lifted by the handles, pivoting on its back edge to lift up.  Hammer the warforged barbarian and Tilia the albino minotaur warden tried to lift it and realized that they needed a little bit more muscle.  Luckily for them, they started looking around more carefully and realized that the legs of the spider which extended all around the alter were edged with razor sharp blades and there were some strange indentations in front of the handles on the floor by the altar.  Tilia made a mental leap and suggested that the entire party kneel before the altar and lift on the handles.  They succeeded in tipping the altar up and back and the spider leg blades whistled harmlessly through the air over their heads.  Trap number one, avoided!

The party then began investigating the mouth of the mural.  Everyone was pretty certain they were supposed to stick their hand in but were understandably reluctant to do so.  Finally, Hammer just did it but he unfortunately does not have blood so after taking some relatively minor damage and being stuck in the jaws of the spider mural for four rounds, the jaws opened and nothing else happened.  

Next, I think we might have made D&D history.  You can never be certain what wacky things have gone on in all the D&D games ever ran, but somehow I think there is at least a chance that Rhaziel was the first character ever to purposefully root his finger around in his nose until it started bleeding.  He started off by warning the party, "This could get dirty", then proceeded to give himself a nose bleed.  Many off-color jokes later the entire group was convulsed in laughter and Vomar the bugbear cleric's player was literally crying from laughing too hard.

Rhaziel collected the blood from his nosebleed and stuck one of the arm bones of a beheaded skeleton the group had found in the treasure pit under the altar into the mural's mouth.  When the jaws closed, he poured in the blood.  This was actually a good idea, as the mechanism was triggered by liquid weight, but he simply didn't have enough blood for it to work.  Finally, Vomar just bit the bullet, stuck his arm in and watched as his blood slowly drained into the hole.  Then the legs of the spider in the mural swung up and back and revealed a set of stairs that descended into the dark...

The next thing they encountered were the secret doors leading to the alter-ego encounter.  Tilia almost immediately figured out how to open them when she leaped up to grab the lintel above the door to pull herself up and look for a mechanism.  Of course, the lintel above the door was the mechanism, so in the party went. 

Hammer went in first, and discovered a statue with his face on it holding a golden scepter.  After other party members tried and failed to move the scepter, Hammer picked it up and was instantly petrified while the statue animated and tried to convince the party that it was Hammer, that he had just been switched into its body.  One of the changes I made was that I decided that the player of whichever character was petrified would get to control the animated statue.  So I pulled Hammer aside, gave him the little sheet on which I had scribbled a 4e conversion of the statue, and told him that he had all of Hammer's memories but clearly knew he was not Hammer.  I told him his goal was to convince the party that he really was Hammer and to continue exploring the dungeon.  I also told him that if it came down to combat, the scepter had a special property that if he scored a critical hit with it, it would petrify the victim, the statue would become an image of that new victim, and the real Hammer would become unpetrified.  Then the new statue/PC would have to play the part!

He did an AWESOME job of roleplaying this, and I had a lot of fun watching the obviously distrustful party try to poke a hole in the faux-Hammer/statue's logic.  They carefully asked him what he remembered, and tried every way they could think of to prove that it wasn't hammer.  Finally, Rhaziel casually scooped up the basket with anti-magic properties that the party had discovered a few sessions back and meandered over... until he was close enough to try to cover the scepter with the basket.  He succeeded, but nothing happened.  Hammer/statue tried to pull the  scepter out of the basket, and Rhaziel tried to yank the scepter out of his hand.  I had them roll off against each other with opposed strength checks (Rhaziel, an Eladrin rogue, has a poor strength score.  Hammer, the warforged barbarian, is a beast in terms of strength and I was using his strength as the statue's strength).  Their first rolls resulted in a tie, so they rolled off to break the tie.  Rhaziel got a natural 20 and the party all cheered as the scepter clattered to the floor.  Hammer/statue then began attacking the party, using his gaze attack to disarm them and clawing around wildly while he attempted to regain the statue.  Ultimately, the party managed to destroy the statue and Rhaziel tried wrapping the scepter in a blanket, picking it up carefully without touching it, and touching the scepter to the statue of Hammer.  Well, this is exactly how you restore the petrified character, so trap #2, met and dealt with!

At this point, Tilia's player mumbled something about, "Why would you make a secret room that is nothing but a big trap?  If you are trying to trap somebody, wouldn't you want them to find the trap?  Why make it hidden behind secret doors?"

Well, thats the beauty of a 1e tournament module for ya.  Traps around every corner...

The party soon encountered what in the original module would have been a centaur mummy.  I made it a spider-taur mummy, motionless on a slab in the middle of a room filled with cheap baubles and crappy jewelry.  The party did find the hidden treasure in the bottom of the urns full of river rocks.  So far, I have been very impressed with how thorough and "old school" my 4e players have been; maybe next time I will try the Temple of Doom on them...

The party was very suspicious of the mummified remains of the spider-taur.  Two party members flanked it while Tilia cautiously opened the door to the only exit from the room and took one step backwards down the stairs that were revealed beyond it.  Of course, the mummy flung its heavy bronze spear at her and the melee was on.

One REALLY hard fight later (I made the mummy-taur a reskinned Mummy Guardian, bumped it up to a level 9 brute for the base stats, then gave it some extras - an at will that was the ability to make two slam attacks in a round instead of one, to simulate both the human and spider halves being able to attack at once, and a special move action that recharged on a 5 or 6 that enabled it to shift 3 squares through enemy squares to simulate its ability to spider climb right over everything), Vomar was one HP a way from his negative bloodied value and absolute death and both he and Tilia had mummy rot.  The session ended there as the party retreated to try and find help to cure the disease (they had taken an extended rest first, and the disease had gotten progressively worse for Vomar so that he was one bad roll on an extended rest away from dying from the disease, and in any case was at -10 HP permanently until the disease is cured... the party is 2d level... ouch...).  

Thus ended session one of using a 1e module in 4e, and I have to say it worked great.  The rooms were plenty large enough for 4e combat, especially considering that the squares in 1e equaled ten feet so each translated into four 4e five foot squares.  I was most impressed with the party's logical trap solving ability, and I now know that I can throw an old school deathtrap style dungeon at them and have a good time!

1 comment:

  1. W00T! Props to an incredibly well-run and -played session!

    I'm so glad that you are providing us with these 4E play-by-plays. It gives me confidence that I and my group will be able to have big fun playing. I don't think I'll be springing deathtrap dungeons on them anytime soon, though. They're just too newbish. We'll see how they do once they learn the mechanics, though.

    Luckily, there's a "test" of sorts for this type of playing in Keep on the Shadowfell, which is going to be our first adventure. There's a multi-trap room right before the final battles that will give me a good indication of how easily they can solve puzzle-traps and survive multiple traps simultaneously. I keep having worried visions of a Total Party Kill, though...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...